Keeping in step

People Travel

November 1, 2021

Retired police Capt. Michelle Hummel hikes the Appalachian Trail to fundraise for local nonprofits.

by Allison Futterman

For 30 years, retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Capt. Michelle Hummel served the community as first responder. Over the years, she worked on cases involving sexual assault, robbery, vice and narcotics, and street crimes, among others. But while Hummel loved being able to make a difference in the community, her time hasn’t been without challenges. She’s dealt with the loss of fellow officers due to murder and suicide. She’s fought breast cancer.

Though she retired as a captain in 2019, it hasn’t meant the end of Hummel’s meaningful work. Earlier this year, she hiked nearly 1,300 miles of the Appalachian Trail, with the intention of finishing the remaining 900 miles in the future, to raise money for five charities. Her fundraising hike garnered more than $10,000 in donations. One of the recipients is COPS 4 the CURE, an organization that supports CMPD employees and family members affected by cancer. Hummel helped launch the nonprofit after her own experience with cancer.

Not an experienced hiker when she embarked on this experience, Hummel persevered through bad weather, exhaustion and solitude, driven by the motivation of helping others.

Comments were edited for length and clarity.

Did you learn anything new about yourself on the trail?

What I realized is that I know who I am. There’s a lot of solitude, and I’m someone who doesn’t relish being alone. I get my energy from interactions with people and from helping people. I’ve seen people in the midst of terrible circumstances, but I’ve also had many opportunities to help people — to better themselves, to connect them to services they need, to mentor.

Your own experience with cancer led you to help others with the creation of COPS 4 the CURE.
I started it with other survivors and CMPD family members who had lost loved ones to cancer. We focus on a tailored response to anyone who is dealing with cancer or any life-threatening illness. We do whatever we can do to relieve some stress from the patient, so they can focus on healing.

Do you see your continued passion for helping others as an extension of your work in law enforcement? 

Yes, I found great purpose and fulfillment in helping others as a police officer and [through] my work with the different charities that I have been involved with. I want to continue that in retirement. I also want to expand more into working with first responders dealing with mental health.

Why mental health?

We have to take away the stigma of getting services. It has to be easier, and we need to support each other. We have to watch for signs of stress and PTSD and potential suicide risks, because peers are often the first to see it. This job is a pressure cooker, and you have to let the pressure off and release the valve.

What’s next for you?

I’m still honing my purpose-finding. But it will be something related to continuing to help people in whatever capacity I am able.

Learn more about Hummel at charlottesalutetoheroes.comSP

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